In just a few weeks time, four of South Africa’s young scientists will be jetting off to the US to represent South Africa at the 2010 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) which is taking place from 11 to 14 May.
Christiaan Kruger, Werner van Zyl, Keegan Moore and Danielle Taljaard each won a gold medal at the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists (EEYS) which was held late last year and earned the honour of flying the South African flag at the Intel ISEF.
Only gold medal winners from the Intel ISEF’s affiliated fairs are invited to represent their countries in the prestigious International competition. Each affiliated fair selects two individual projects and one team project to travel to the Intel ISEF to compete in 18 different categories.
Christiaan Kruger and Werner van Zyl are both 17 and in grade 11. Their gold-winning project designed computer software for students up to Grade 10 aimed at making the student’s studies easier and more fun.
“In our previous grade we studied chemistry for the first time and stories of it being difficult were proven to be true,” says Kruger. “Having heard a lot of complaints and seen the negative attitude towards the subject, we saw the need for an interactive study companion. The purpose of our project was to generate an interest in chemistry as a subject."
Van Zyl adds: “Our software is accompanied by a textbook that contains more information on each aspect covered in the software and basic grade 10 chemistry work. The software includes a web browser which has several important chemistry websites already bookmarked and the Wikipedia page on every element."
According to Parthy Chetty, director of corporate affairs at Intel, these students demonstrate that we have the capability in this country to cultivate the next generation of innovators, scientists and entrepreneurs."They are proof that curiosity, eager minds coupled with inspiring and knowledgeable teachers are the foundation for world-changing innovation," says Chetty.
Another representative is Free State-based Danielle Taljaard, a 17 year old whose winning project outlines the role lichens play in the weathering of sandstone “My study looked into the role of lichens in the soil forming process known as the rock cycle. I used different types of research methods and the results showed that lichens play an important role in the soil forming process. It also became evident that lichens actively contribute towards the weathering of sandstone,” she says.
“It was not easy to physically obtain results pertaining to the growth of lichens as they take time to grow. I had to rely on other methods, including observations in the field and historical research to make conclusions in this regard."
Keegan Moore, a 17-year-old from Gauteng, will present the “going clean flying green” project at the Intel ISEF. “My project will determine the result of jet fuel combustion and its chemical emissions in order to decrease the amount of nitrogen oxide released during the combustion process within a jet engine. The idea is to change the chemical compounds and densities of the elements within the jet engine,” he says.
The 2010 Intel ISEF will bring 1 500 exceptional high-school science students from more than 500 Intel ISEF affiliated fairs held worldwide to California. These students will compete for $3 million in awards and scholarships. Students will also have an opportunity to network with fellow students, academia and employees of sponsoring companies.
“Over the past decade Intel’s investment in this world class program has helped to increase the number of participants by more than 36 percent and the type of scientific projects students are tackling have grown increasingly sophisticated,” says Chetty.